Sikhs in Kashmir agree to demolish gurdwara to make way for national highway

Sikhs in Kashmir agree to demolish gurdwara to make way for national highway

On Thursday, in the presence of the deputy commissioner and gurdwara management members, the demolition of the gurdwara began. Photo courtesy Facebook

Srinagar, December 12

In an exemplary act, the Sikh community in Kashmir on Thursday agreed to the demolition of a 72-year-old gurdwara to make way for a national highway connecting Srinagar with Baramulla which had been stuck for over a decade, an official said.

According to a settlement reached between the Sikh community and the Srinagar district administration, a new gurdwara will be built at an alternative site nearby.

Established in 1947, Gurdwara Damdama Sahib mainly served migrant families from Pakistan. It organised langars and undertook many social service initiatives such as flood rescue.

The gurdwara was one of four bottlenecks in the road project, most parts of which were completed in 2013. Further, a litigation in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had kept the matter related to the relocation of the gurdwara lingering for years.

Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary swung into action to break the deadlock and personally intervened in the discussion process.

He reached out to the Sikh community to devise an amicable solution to the issue.

Choudhary held a series of meetings over the past week to examine a range of options to resolve the issue.

“Finally, today in the presence of the deputy commissioner and the gurdwara management, the demolition of Gurdwara Damdama Saheb was started. The gurdwara will function from a makeshift space till a new one is constructed at the agreed location. The state public works department (PWD) has been entrusted with the construction of the gurdwara as per the design provided by the Sikh community,” the official said.

Giving details, he said that the Government of India started construction of the national highway from Srinagar to Baramulla in 2006. Later, the project was funded under the Prime Minister’s Development Plan.

The stretch of the road where the gurdwara stood was executed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), while the Anantnag-Srinagar section was constructed by the National Highways Authority of India. The road was completed in 2013, but the four bottlenecks remained.

In 2014, the owner of the site proposed for relocation of the gurdwara objected to it and obtained a stay from the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

Besides the gurdwara, the three other bottlenecks were a power line, a petrol pump and water supply lines.

The official said the work on the demolition of the petrol pump and shifting of power lines and water supply lines has also started. The work is likely to be completed in the next 10 days, he said.

“BRO will start construction of the road stretch this month.... The administrative outreach of DC Srinagar to resolve this 13-year long-pending complex issue is an example of proactive approach for efficient resolution aimed at public welfare,” he said.

“The act and gesture of the Sikh community here has created a history in Kashmir and will be remembered,” Deputy Commissioner Choudhary said. — PTI



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